Fresh off the word from the SDCC that R.E.B.E.L.S. "wasn't going anywhere", I eagerly read R.E.B.E.L.S. #19, the second part of 'The Sons of Brainiac' story arc. Despite the persistent excellence of the title, I have been worried about the titles viability in the face of lackluster sales.
That said, I also have been worried about Tony Bedard pandering a bit to try to drum up sales. Last month's Starfire/Captain Comet tryst is a good example ... did it deserve the page space? Wouldn't I rather see the team more?
These complaints on this title have been more like quibbles, to be honest. Overall, this has been one of the better books I read month in, month out.
The book opens with a short scene at the R.E.B.E.L.S. headquarters on Rann. This is the only time we see any team member outside of Brainiac in the whole issue. And again, it seemed to be a 'lowest common denominator' scene in which we see Hakk watching Khundian porn.
Sure, maybe it is some insight into Khundian sexuality but I don't know if it added to either character's stories. I don't know. It just seems like we haven't had a 'team' issue in a while and I like these characters. I'd rather see something of more importance than this.
Both Comet and Hakk seem oblivious to the events on Colu: Lyrl's attack with Pulsar Stargrave and the original Brainiac's escape.
This story has great potential, showcasing the Dox family and all their faults. It also allows Bedard to delve a bit into Coluan culture. One of the things I loved about early R.E.B.E.L.S. issues was Bedard's ease with the galactic races he was dealing with: the Psions, the Citadel, etc. This seems to be in his wheel house as a writer.
One thing I didn't like was Brainiac being a lumbering physical threat. Remember in the Brainiac storyline by Geoff Johns where we first met this Brainiac. He hadn't left his 'bio-shell' in years, let alone his ship. That Brainiac was incapacitated by physical contact with the environment around him. It seems as through New Krypton and Last Stand, Brainiac changed to relish using his muscle. It just feels a bit wrong.
With Lyrl and Stargrave laying waste to the landscape, the Coluan ruling council order a counter-attack which is easily squashed. Suddenly the brain trust of Colu doesn't know what to do.
Vril Dox has an understanding of these sorts of gambits. The best weapon they have against Lyrl is simply eliminating the thing he is asking for, removing his impetus for attack. Of course, this means that Vril is asking that the Coluans destroy the Central Data-core, the very history and knowledge of the planet. I have said before that Dox is the most compelling reason to read this book. This scene gives the reader some insight into Vril. In his mind, a pyrrhic victory is still a victory.
After a short discussion, the council see the 'wisdom' in Dox' advice. They actually plan on stripping the people of Colu of the most most valued prize ... knowledge!
Unfortunately, the short discussion to reach this conclusion is still too long. The original Brainiac is able to link to the datacore and suddenly has control of all of Colu.
I love the hubris of the Council, thinking they had made the Core completely safe. With his gambit removed, Vril realizes there is little left to do except bloody their knuckles. It is time to launch nukes at Lyrl.
But even that is out of their hands now. Brainiac 1 is in control and thinks that lobbing nuclear weapons makes great sense. His target is different though. He erases the Ruling Council from existence. Luckily Vril's force field is able to keep him safe and sound. This is another thing I like about R.E.B.E.L.S. ... the canvas Bedard can write on is large. He can destroy cities and planets alike. Between Pulsar Stargrave and Brainiac, there might not be much of Colu left to claim.
It is time for the sons of Brainiac to team up to eliminate the original. Vril knows that neither he nor Lyrl are safe here. The original Brainiac won't rest until his progeny are destroyed.
In a surprise move, Lyrl agrees to team up with Vril, who claims to have a plan to defeat Brainiac.
The first part is easy, Stargrave needs to destroy the central data-core! How slick is Brainiac 2! He is able to convince Lyrl to destroy the very thing he was hoping to claim just moments earlier. I am surprised that Lyrl falls in line so quickly. I guess fear is a great motivator. But it definitely shows the guile of Vril to get even those who hate him to do his bidding.
But this battle of super-intelligences changes in micro-seconds. Brainiac is able to bottle Stargrave in a force field before the core can be attacked. While Vril leaves to procure a 'secret weapon'. Lyrl fights his grandfather alone.
And in a brilliant twist, Vril simply leaves the scene.
I wondered if this was his great scheme ... to set his father against his son and let them destroy each other and his home world. I certainly wouldn't put such a plan past Vril. My guess is 'scorched Earth' is in his playbook.
This is again why I love this book. I actually thought the 'hero' was willing to let his family and planet be destroyed.
But in the end it looks as though Brainiac 2 is going for a secret weapon.
Although it must gall Dox to go crawling to Lobo and ask for help.
I can only imagine the carnage that will ensue if a Lobo vs. Brainiac 1 vs. Brainiac 3/Pulsar Stargrave fight happens. Will there be anything left standing on Colu?
This certainly was a Vril-heavy issue, showcasing his character and why I love him as a protagonist. And the Dox family feud makes for great reading. Despite his 'superior' intellect, I think Lyrl is the weakest of the Brainiac as he seems much more motivated by personal affronts. I think that part of his psyche will allow him to be manipulated, made to make a mistake.
Claude St. Aubin continues to do a solid job here. The panels of the war on the planet surface are big and splashy, accentuating the destruction that is ongoing.
Still, I hope when this arc is over we see a R.E.B.E.L.S. mission where we see Ciji, Xylon, Bounder, etc. Seeing Dox work with his teammates is as much fun as seeing him thwarting his enemies.